St. Mary’s Chapel’s impressive new organ is the life’s work of alum

by Owen Hearns ’17

The Blue and Gold tour of 2013 brought about an unusual request for Fr. Murphy and Don Isabella, Major Gifts Officer. The annual tour, which gives alumni across the country the opportunity to join Fr. Murphy and other members of the faculty and staff to share memories and updates on St. Ignatius High School, had arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan when Pat Macoska ‘69 approached the two men and expressed that he wanted to create a pipe organ for St. Mary’s Chapel.

Macoska grew up in West Park, attending St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School. Paul Lammermeier ’57, founder of the Paul Lammermeier Foundation to create opportunities for Peruvian youth and Jesuit History and Latin teacher at St. Ignatius from 1964-1967, introduced him to the organ at the age of 15.

As a junior and senior, Macoska attended the St. Ignatius sponsored retreat to a Jesuit retreat house in Michigan where he met Fr. Serrick. Serrick further deepened Macoska’s love for the organ, and their friendship continues to this day as Fr. Serrick recently became the pastor at Macoska’s parish in Ann Arbor.
Macoska went on to attend the University of Detroit where he obtained his Master’s degree in architecture; however, he does not give complete credit to this education for his knack at building organs. “I bought my first pipe organ when I bought my first house,” he explained. “As I moved from one place to another, I disassembled and reassembled my organ, which helped me to learn the different pieces and parts. This, along with some reading, taught me the basics of building organs.” Macoska currently works out of his garage for his construction projects and is also a Church musician.

The organ Macoska built for St. Ignatius High School is one of the biggest projects he has undertaken and completed, starting the actual building of the organ in January 2014. He predicted that around a total of 2,500 hours were spent on the whole ordeal.

One of the aspects of the plan that proved most difficult was obtaining high-quality equipment for the organ for a reasonable price. Macoska bought parts from reliable websites and suppliers, but also collected and repurposed items from decommissioned organs, such as the one used at his own parish.

After a year of hard-work, the masterpiece was finished in January of 2015.

The instrument consists of two separate pipe fixtures with a controlling console. Most of the pipes are located in a wooden structure at the back of the chapel outlining the arch of the entrance. A headline over the pipes reads the Jesuit motto, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, “For the greater glory of God”. The other grouping of pipes is situated at the front of the chapel adjacent to the console. Macoska insisted that this arrangement be used so that a choir or soloist can better hear the notes of the organ. Finally, and most importantly, the console is played by keys and foot pedals to initiate a range of sounds.

Not all of the sounds are produced by the pipes, however. The organ creates a number of computerized noises that can’t be obtained by the tone of the pipes. Since organs are appraised by the amount of pipes they have, the piece created by Macoska is worth close to $500,000.

Don Isabella, St. Ignatius’ Major Gifts Officer, commented on Macoska’s achievement, “Mr. Macoska’s architectural design, master craftsmanship, organ playing experience, and ties to St. Ignatius High School is what has made this donation so special to the St. Ignatius community.” The work of Pat Macoska ‘69 will grace the ears of the faithful who enter St. Mary’s Chapel for years to come.